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Protesters in the Moroccan city of Al Hoceima shout slogans during a demonstration against the government on 11 June 2017.

The demonstration was part of social justice

protests in the northern Rif region, commonly known as Hirak El-Rif. © Fadel Senna / AFP / Getty Images

MOROCCO/ Migrants and refugees continued to face

unlawful arrest, detention and forcible
The European Commission increased its
financial support to Morocco aimed at

WESTERN SAHARA return to their countries of origin. Despite

flaws, new laws improved protection of
containing migration.

Kingdom of Morocco women from violence and strengthened

Head of state: Mohammed VI the rights of domestic workers. FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
Head of government: Saad-Eddine El Othmani
Journalists, citizen journalists and
human rights defenders were sentenced
The rights to freedom of expression and BACKGROUND to prison terms for expressing their
assembly were heavily restricted, mainly views peacefully online. Prosecutors
in relation to peaceful protests in the The UN Security Council prolonged used disproportionate and inappropriate
northern cities of Al Hoceima and Jerada. the mandate of the UN Mission for security-related charges based on
Courts sentenced journalists, protesters the Referendum in Western Sahara offences in the Penal Code and counter-
and human rights defenders to long (MINURSO) for six months in both April terrorism legislation.
prison sentences following grossly unfair and October without adding a human
trials. Authorities banned or limited rights component. In February, a court in Al Hoceima
the activities of several associations. In sentenced lawyer Abdessadak El
Western Sahara, Moroccan authorities, In December, the parliament adopted a Bouchattaoui to two years in prison
which administer the non-self-governing law restoring compulsory military service and a fine for online posts in which he
territory, used unnecessary force to for men and women, without adequate criticized the use of excessive force by
disperse peaceful demonstrations. provision for conscientious objection. the authorities during sustained social


Amnesty International
justice protests in the northern Rif region Between January and June, authorities UNFAIR TRIALS, TORTURE AND
in 2017, commonly known as Hirak prevented at least five activities related to
El-Rif. Later in February, the same court human rights education that were being
sentenced Nawal Benaissa to a 10-month organized by the Moroccan Association Courts continued to convict activists
suspended prison term and a fine for for Human Rights (AMDH) from taking after grossly unfair trials. In Al Hoceima,
place. In June they banned a conference Oujda and Casablanca, courts relied
online comments in which she criticized
heavily on “confessions” extracted under
the authorities’ approach to Hirak El-Rif. on individual freedoms being organized
duress. On 26 June, a Casablanca court
by another NGO, the Democracy and
convicted 53 prisoners detained in
In November, a Casablanca court Liberties Collective, which was due to be
relation with Hirak El-Rif; the sentences
convicted Taoufik Bouachrine, director held in Casablanca. On 26 December,
ranged from fines to 20 years in prison.
of Akhbar Al-Youm newspaper, of sexual authorities issued a dissolution order During the trial, the court did not exclude
assault charges that he has always against Racines, a cultural association evidence allegedly obtained by torture
denied and sentenced him to 12 years based in Casablanca, after it hosted in its or other ill-treatment and refused to
in prison. office the recording of three episodes of hear more than 50 defence witnesses.
the controversial web-based chat show 1 The court held the prisoners in a high-
In June, a Casablanca court convicted dîner, 2 cons. sided box with tinted glass, a practice
journalist Rabie Lablak and online citizen which is degrading and undermines the
journalists Mohamed El Asrihi, of Rif24. The authorities continued to restrict the presumption of innocence.
com, and Fouad Essaidi, of Facebook access to the country of international
page Awar TV, to five years in prison in organizations, including Amnesty By the end of the year, the authorities
relation to their coverage of Hirak El-Rif. International, to conduct research on had yet to establish a National Preventive
The same court convicted Hamid El human rights. Mechanism against torture, as provided
for by the law on the reorganization of the
Mahdaoui, director, to three
National Human Rights Council (CNDH),
years’ imprisonment for “failing to report
adopted in February, and by the Optional
a security threat” in connection with the FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY Protocol to the Convention against
same protests. On 14 November, a Rabat Authorities banned demonstrations or Torture, ratified by Morocco in 2014.
appeal court confirmed the five-year jail used excessive or unnecessary force at
sentence against Hirak El-Rif protester least twice in 2018. Courts used the law
El Mortada Iamrachen for posts he on public gatherings to sentence peaceful DETENTION – PRISON CONDITIONS
published on Facebook. protesters to harsh prison terms.
Prison authorities moved detainees
Seven people, including academic Maati connected with protests between prisons
On 13 March, the interior minister and to prisons far from their home cities
Monjib, outspoken journalist Ali Anouzla banned protests in the mining city of as a form of reprisal.
and other journalists and activists, Jerada after a series of protests following
remained on trial at the end of the the December 2017 deaths of two Hirak El-Rif protester Achraf El
year on charges including “threatening brothers in a mine. The following morning Yakhloufi was held in Ain Sbaa 1
state security” for promoting a mobile security forces violently dispersed a Local Prison, known as Okacha prison,
application for citizen journalism and sit-in by protesters; five police trucks near Casablanca, over 550km from Al
“advocating terrorism” for an article Ali drove into the crowd and ran over at Hoceima, his home town. In August, he
Anouzla published in 2013. least one individual, paralysing 15-year- was transferred to another prison between
old Abdelmoula Ziker’s lower body. No the cities of Taza and Rabat for nine days
In June, the UN Working Group on investigation was opened. Authorities after he began a hunger strike to protest
Arbitrary Detention called on Morocco prosecuted at least 70 people in relation against the prison administration’s
to immediately release Saharawi Equipe to the peaceful protest. refusal to allow him family visits.
Media journalist Mohamed El Benbari,
imprisoned since 2015, on the grounds In September, Okacha prison officials
In June, Moroccan police violently
that his detention violated his rights to moved prisoner of conscience Nasser
dispersed a peaceful protest in Laayoune
freedom of expression and association Zefzafi, a leader of Hirak El-Rif, out of
during a visit by the UN special envoy for
and to a fair trial. solitary confinement, in which he had
Western Sahara. In September, Moroccan
been held since his arrest in May 2017.
police used unnecessary force against
peaceful protesters opposing an EU-
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION Morocco fisheries deal that was agreed in
August; the EU Court of Justice had ruled
Authorities imposed restrictions on
in February that the deal did not apply SEEKERS AND REFUGEES
freedom of association by banning
or limiting the activities of several to the waters adjacent to the territory of From July onward, the authorities
associations. Western Sahara. launched a widespread and


Amnesty International
discriminatory crackdown on thousands apparently believing they were migrants homophobic and transphobic attacks
of sub-Saharan migrants, asylum-seekers seeking to reach Spain. A woman was reported being afraid to approach the
and refugees, especially in the north killed and three men were injured. police to file complaints because of the
of Morocco, raiding neighbourhoods risk of arrest under Article 489.
and informal settlements inhabited by
refugees and migrants. Thousands of WOMEN’S RIGHTS
sub-Saharan migrants, including children
A law to combat violence against RIGHTS OF DOMESTIC WORKERS
and pregnant women, were unlawfully
women came into effect in September. In October, parliament passed a new law
arrested during the raids and transported
It introduces new offences, increases on domestic workers. It stipulates that
to remote areas in the south of the
existing penalties in cases of spousal or domestic workers are entitled to written
country or close to the Algerian border.
family violence, proposes new measures contracts, maximum working hours,
On 12 August, two sub-Saharan nationals
to protect survivors of violence during guaranteed days off, paid vacations
arrested in Tangiers died during their
and after judicial proceedings, and and a specified minimum wage. It sets
transfer to the south. In September,
establishes new bodies to co-ordinate and the minimum age for domestic workers
dozens of sub-Saharan migrants,
complement judicial and governmental at 18, with a phase-in period of five
including minors, were detained without
efforts to combat violence against women. years, during which 16- and 17-year-
due process in the basement of the
However, it fails to define rape in line old domestic workers can still work.
police headquarters in Tangiers for at with international standards or recognize
least four weeks. According to the AMDH, Employers who violate these provisions
marital rape. It also perpetuates derogatory will face financial penalties, with prison
dozens of sub-Saharan migrants arrested gender stereotypes and does not address
in the north were held in an informal sentences for repeat offenders in some
obstacles to accessing justice and services cases. Despite these gains, the new law
detention centre in Arekmane, close to for survivors of violence owing to the
Nador, still offers less protection to domestic
continuing criminalization of consensual workers than the Moroccan Labour Code,
sexual relations outside marriage.
Security forces continued to co-operate which does not refer to domestic workers.
with the Spanish authorities in the Women continued to be subjected to
summary expulsion and push-back sexual and gender-based violence and
of migrants and asylum-seekers from were discriminated against in practice. DEATH PENALTY
Spain to Morocco. Between August and Abortion remains criminalized unless Courts continued to hand down death
October, the Spanish authorities expelled the health of the mother is at risk, sentences. No executions had been
as a group at least 171 sub-Saharan and is subject to spousal consent, carried out since 1993.
migrants and potential asylum-seekers which restricts women’s autonomous
to Morocco after they crossed into the decision-making. In all other cases,
Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. women seeking or undergoing abortion
Moroccan authorities forcibly returned and health professionals alike risk
dozens of those arrested and expelled imprisonment and other penalties. The Polisario Front again failed to hold to
from Spain to their countries of origin, account those responsible for committing
including Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, human rights abuses in the 1970s and
Guinea and Senegal, in some cases RIGHTS OF LESBIAN, GAY, 1980s in the camps that have been
in violation of the principle of non- under its control since that period.
On 25 September, the Moroccan navy Same-sex sexual relations remained a
intercepted a boat with at least 15 criminal offence punishable by up to
Moroccan nationals in Moroccan waters three years in prison under Article 489 of
close to the northern town of Fnideq. They the Penal Code. LGBTI people continued
shot at them to make them stop the boat, to face police harassment. Victims of


Amnesty International